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    Growing Hardcore

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Among movies that were emblematic of their eras but fell in perception just below the pantheon level and faded from memory, writer/director Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979), despite Schrader’s own reservations about his skills as a fledgling director, still packs a wallop since its opening 38 years ago today. Considering how society currently juggles issues of conservative vs. progressive interests, religious vs. secular values, sexual restraint vs. liberation and personal expression vs. identity exploitation (with an added technological layer of unprecedented openness via social media and mass communication), its cautionary message is timelier than ever. In his assessment of The 30 Most Underappreciated American Movies of the 1970s at the Taste of Cinema website, Matt Hendricks provides a succinct and smart overview: “Like many of his directorial efforts, Paul Schrader’s film is a sadly forgotten masterwork that offers layers of insight into the complexities of the human soul. Centering around a small-town man (George C. Scott) who is searching for his missing teenage daughter in California’s pornography scene, Hardcore sucks you into a hypnotic underworld that is as intoxicating as it is repulsive. While the film works perfectly well on an entertainment level as a first-rate thriller, it wouldn’t be a Paul Schrader movie if there wasn’t something much greater, and much more complicated, running concurrently within it. Hardcore ultimately unravels into a harsh reminder that, even in the seemingly safest and most serene corners of America, no one is truly safe from corruption when it is so readily available within ourselves.” Blogger Peter Hanson conveys his warts-and-all passion in greater detail here: At the very least, even among those who did not admire the film praised the committed performance of its troubled star, whose embattled participation in the film while dealing with an entrenched alcohol addiction caused as many headaches as cheers from Schrader. In his 1999 obituary for the actor, Roger Ebert considered Hardcore’s fundamentalist father Scott’s “last great film performance” and film historian Jim Hemphill, in a September 2016 piece upon its arrival last summer in hi-def, called it “one of the great American movies of the ’70s, a film that deserves to be as well known and talked about as the era’s benchmarks – Nashville, Taxi Driver (written, of course, by Schrader), The Last Picture Show, The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, etc.” (Read his entire essay here: Virtuosically photographed by the great Michael Chapman and also starring Peter Boyle, Season Hubley and Dick Sargent, with an acutely revealing and exhaustive Audio Commentary by Schrader and an Isolated Track of versatile composer Jack Nitzsche’s evocative and multifaceted score, Hardcore makes its case provocatively and glisteningly on Twilight Time Blu-ray.